Scotland politics

Scottish Conservatives call for 'radical' education reform

Classroom Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Scottish conservatives want schools to have more autonomy on delivering education

The Scottish Conservatives have said radical changes are needed to Scottish schools to help youngsters from poorer families get to university.

Figures released by them show a gap between the number of children from the richest and poorest families getting at least three As in their Highers.

The gap was found in schools across all of Scotland's local authorities.

The Scottish government says it has a range of work underway with a specific focus on reducing the gap.

The figures show that across Scotland, around 20% of pupils in the wealthiest communities gained three or more As at Higher grade.

This figure dropped to 2.6% among pupils in the poorest communities.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the findings pointed to the need for a major overhaul in how education is delivered across Scotland.

She said: "I've never understood why the body who are responsible for taking out your bin are in charge of teaching our children.

"What we need in this country is choice. We need people parents to be able to decide how their children are best taught. "

Edinburgh had the biggest performance gap in 2013, with only 1.1% of children in the poorest areas gaining three As - equating to six pupils.

This compares with 22.9% of the capital's wealthiest pupils - equating to 290 children.

National problem

The data also showed that the gap was also apparent in many of Scotland's other local authorities, including Dundee, where just 1.8% of pupils in the poorest areas achieved three or more As at Higher grade in 2013, compared with 18.2% in the most affluent group.

Ms Davidson suggested that giving head teachers more power in how schools worked would be a key point in any reforms.

"We need to have more autonomy in our schools, our head teachers need to have more powers on how they teach pupils.

She added: "Not all children learn the same and not all children should be taught the same."

The Scottish government said that reforms plans were already underway to increase the availability of higher education and that it remained committed to a policy of education being based on "the ability to learn, not the ability to pay".

A spokesman said: "The most recent figures, published by Skills Development Scotland, confirmed 91.4% of school leavers are now in positive destinations such as employment, college or Higher Education, combined with the achievement of Scotland's best ever exam pass rates last year.

"We are confident that the continuing roll-out of Curriculum for Excellence, the new approach to learning and teaching in Scottish schools, will lead to greater achievement for all pupils in the years ahead.

He added: "We are already seeing evidence of high standards of achievement in primary school."

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